Journey’s End

Dubbed the  ‘White Zulu’, Johnny Clegg, one of South African most celebrated musicians, anthropologist and anti-apartheid activist dies at 66.

By David E. Kaplan

His fans knew it was coming.

The news broke in 2015 that the British-born South African musician, who blended western and Zulu music had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. However, he continued to perform while receiving treatment. Then in September 2017, came the announcement that he was embarking on a final international tour that he called “The Final Journey”.

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Man Of Africa. Johnny Clegg remembered for his music with songs like “Great Heart,” “Impi,” “Asimbonanga” and the heartrending “Scatterlings of Africa” as well as his contribution to social cohesion in a once divided South Africa.

That journey came to an end this July when the icon who had defied the country’s apartheid-era racial barriers, celebrated its new democracy under Nelson Mandela and taken his Zulu-infused rock music around the world, finally succumbed to his terminal illness.

Clegg’s mother’s family were Jewish immigrants from Poland, and the singer describes his upbringing as “secular Jewish.” As a child he spent several months living in Israel, which he again visited in 2003 when his sister living in Ra’anana passed away.

He had planned  a much-awaited revisit to Israel – this time to tour with his band in 2010 – hence the reason this writer called him on phone to interview him for Telfed, a South African community magazine in Israel that I had been editor of at the time.  I tracked the musician down while on tour of New Zealand to a hotel room in Auckland. Within hours of a press release that Clegg would be performing in Israel, the Telfed office, which had undertaken to promote the concert in Israel, was inundated with inquiries.

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Swimming Against The Currents. Johnny Clegg defied Apartheid through his music and his lifestyle.

A world away in Auckland, Clegg was happy to hear this upbeat update. “Israel is probably the country closest to my heart in terms of-ex-pats,” with close members of his family living in the Jewish homeland. “I have visited on two occasions, but this will be the first time that I will be performing there,” he enthused.

One of the many hits he would be singing would be “Scatterlings of Africa” which rocked the charts in the UK “enabling me to give up lecturing in Anthropology at Wits University and focus on music.”  In 1988 the song was featured on the soundtrack to the 1988 Oscar-winning film Rain Man with Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise.

Clegg had once explained the inspiration for the song in a live concert, saying “When we wrote this song, the oldest human bones in the world had just been discovered at Olduvai Gorge, in Africa. So this is a song about how everyone can claim to be African … if they want to, that is.”

Harassment To Harmony

Prior to his overseas success, “making a living exclusively  from music in apartheid South Africa was difficult. Our racially integrated band was refused airtime on the radio and our concerts  were routinely broken-up by the police, who would barge onto the stage with dogs and shotguns.”

His band Juluka was an unusual musical partnership for the time in South Africa, with a white man (Clegg) and a black man (Mchunu) performing together. The band, which grew to a six-member group (with three white and three black musicians) by the time it released its first album Universal Men in 1979, faced harassment and censorship, with Clegg later remarking that it was “impossible” to perform in public in South Africa.

Clegg made it ‘possible’!

The group tested the apartheid-era laws, touring and performing in private venues, including universities, churches, hostels, and even private homes in order to attract an audience, as national broadcasters would not play their music.

The year that Clegg planned to tour Israel, was proving “very busy.”

Earlier in 2010, he told the writer, “We performed at a 9-day concert in Rabat, Morocco,” where his group joined some of the biggest names in music, such as Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys and Kylie Minogue. Clegg had also recently finished recording his own compositions for a Nelson Mandela audiobook with narration by some of Hollywood’s biggest stars. He had enjoyed a strong association with the iconic former state president and performed frequently to raise funds for the Nelson Mandela Foundation to combat AIDS.

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Forbidden Fruit. Under the shadow of Apartheid, Juluka reached a young white public that was drawn to its ‘exotic and forbidden music‘.

Johnny’s Journey

As an adolescent in Johannesburg‘s northern suburbs, he related befriending Charlie Mzila, a flat cleaner by day and musician by night, “drawing me into the city’s Zulu migrant workers’ music and dance scene. Through Charlie, I mastered the Zulu language and the maskandi guitar as well as the isishameni dance styles of the migrants.”

Johnny was on the way to becoming a “White Zulu”.

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“The White Zulu”. Johnny Clegg knew all the moves.

Clegg’s close association with black musicians frequently led to his arrest.  His first arrest was at the age of fifteen and – in  SA legal parlance – it was for violating the Group Areas Act that prohibited people of different races from congregating together outside select areas and at select times.

However, it was his meeting with Sipho Mchunu that had the next major impact on his life and music. “I was seventeen and Sipho was a Zulu migrant worker; we just clicked and that led to Juluka.”

He explained that “Juluka means “sweat” and also had been the name of a bull owned by Mchunu.

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The Young Ones. Johnny Clegg & Sipho Mchunu

Having myself been a student of Anthropology at the University of Natal, Durban, this writer was familiar with Clegg’s earlier academic career lecturing at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) and the University of Natal, and writing several seminal scholarly papers on Zulu music and dance.

Clegg had a talent for integrating his knowledge of Anthropology with his music, which led him in the early stages of his musical career, to include in his songs snippets of Zulu culture.

Later, his lyrics would contain coded political messages and references to the battle against Apartheid, although Clegg maintained that Juluka was not originally intended to be a political band. “Politics found us,” he told The Baltimore Sun in 1996. In a 1989 interview with the Sunday Times, Clegg denied the label of “political activist”. For him, “a political activist is someone who has committed himself to a particular ideology. I don’t belong to any political party. I stand for human rights.”

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Johnny Clegg performs with Savuka, his next band following Jaluka, in San Francisco in 1990. (Clayton Call/Redferns/Getty Images)

 Revolutionary Road

Nevertheless, Juluka’s music was both implicitly and explicitly political; it proved a thorn in the flesh of a political system based on racial separation – Apartheid. As a result of the political messages imbedded in their music, Clegg and other band members were arrested several times and concerts routinely broken up. While  harassed at home, Juluka managed to tour abroad playing in Europe, Canada and the USA , and had  two platinum and five gold albums, emerging as a major international success.

In one instance, the band drew such a large crowd in Lyon, France that Michael Jackson cancelled a concert there, allegedly complaining that Clegg and his group had “stolen my fans”.

During a concert in 1999, Clegg was joined onstage by South African President Nelson Mandela, who danced as he sang the anti-Apartheid protest song dedicated to the President, Asimbonanga. Meaning – “We have not seen him” – Asimbonanga was one of the first songs to call for Nelson Mandela’s release while still imprisoned on Robben Island.

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Living Legends. President Nelson Mandela joins Johnny Clegg on stage in 1997 during the singing of Asimbonanga, the song calling for Mandela’s release from Robben Island

Unfortunately, Israelis would not get to hear Clegg live in 2010 with those great hits ‘Scatterlings of Africa’ andAsimbonanga’ because the tour to Israel was cancelled, much to his regret.

Paying tribute to his father, his son Jesse Clegg, expressed: “Johnny leaves deep footprints in the hearts of every person that considers him/herself to be an African. He showed us what it was to assimilate to and embrace other cultures without losing your identity. An anthropologist that used his music to speak to every person. With his unique style of music, he traversed cultural barriers like few others. In many of us, he awakened awareness.”

“They are the scatterlings of Africa
Each uprooted one
On the road to Phelamanga
Where the world began
I love the scatterlings of Africa”

 

Asimbonanga was an anti-apartheid song by Savuka, from their 1987 album Third World ChildIt was a tribute to Nelson Mandela, imprisoned on Robben Island the time of song’s release, and other anti-apartheid activists.

 

 

*Title picture: WHITE ZULU: Johnny Clegg (Picture: Tsheko Kabasi)

“Welcome To The Club”

It depends….!

By David E. Kaplan

If you want to become a life member of one of the most exclusive clubs in the world – the All England Club, which organises the Wimbledon Championships – then either marry a  prince, like Kate Middleton did, or try the easier way and – WIN IT!

When Simona Halep won last Saturday the Wimbledon women’s final, what seemed to please her the most was that as a champion, she, too, now had life membership of the venerable old club started in 1868 “by six gentlemen” at the offices of The Field, the world’s oldest country and field sports magazine.

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Member Of The Club. Simona Halep holds the Venus Rosewater Dish while proudly wearing her new Wimbledon membership badge. (GETTY IMAGES)

Halep had spoken in the locker room earlier in the fortnight about what membership would mean and said:

It was one of my motivations before this tournament, so now I’m happy.”

And Halep wasted little time in taking advantage of her elevated status, being pictured the day after her win against Serena Williams smiling broadly with a purple membership badge pinned to her red dress after being awarded it by club chairman Philip Brook.

However, for some, even by winning the world’s most famous and prestigious tennis event might not get you to the coveted membership; that is if you’re  either Jewish or Black.

Ask  84-year-old Jewish Angela Buxton, who is accusing the All England Club of Antisemitism because she has yet to receive membership 63 years after her victory in 1956.

It’s too late to ask her Black American doubles partner, and twice Wimbledon singles champion Althea Gibson who passed away in 2003.

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Black And White. Angela Buxton (right), won the Wimbeldon ladies doubles in 1956 with Althea Gibson (left), who went on to become the first black player to win the ladies singles title.

In 1956, the English former tennis player Angela Buxton, together with her playing partner, Althea Gibson won the women’s doubles title at both the French Championships and Wimbledon.

Angela Buxton was the first British Jewish player to win a title at Wimbledon. Following the win with Althea Gibson – the first black American woman to compete and to win at the tournament – a British newspaper at the time ran the headline:

Minorities Win

Gibson was the only black woman to win the Wimbledon singles (1957 and 1958) until Venus Williams took the title in 2000.  When she died in 2003, she was still awaiting her membership after applying – like her Jewish partner, Angela –  in 1956.

Born in Liverpool, Angela Buxton was the daughter of second-generation immigrants from Russia. Angela and her family spent the war years in South Africa where she took up tennis at the age of eight and quickly excelled. Returning  to England following WWII, Angela pursued her tennis in London  and then in California where she was coached by Ben Tilden, an ex-Wimbledon winner with whom she began playing mixed doubles.

Angela returned to England in 1953, ready to compete in Wimbledon, but at the Bournemouth Hardcourt Championship she was soundly beaten by the reigning Wimbledon champion Doris Hart. Ready to quit, Buxton decided to play in her last tournament at the 1953  Maccabi Games in Israel. There she won two gold medals which renewed her confidence, and back in London, Angela had her most successful tennis year in 1956. It was “my Wimbledon year,” winning the women’s doubles title and reaching the singles final.

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“Minorities Win”. Angela Buxton (left) and Althea Gibson (right) accept their Wimbledon trophy from the Duchess of Kent after their 1956 doubles victory. (PA IMAGES/GETTY IMAGES)

Rarely Remembered

So, while the players battle on the manicured grass courts of Wimbledon each year in July surrounded by the history of the world’s oldest tennis tournament, rarely remembered is the prejudice-defying moment in 1956 when Althea and Angela – the  African-American and the  British Jew – teamed up to win the women’s doubles championship.

Both had to overcome prejudice which stands in sharp contrast to today’s diversity in the top ranks of tennis.

When residing in South Africa during the WWII, Angela’s neighbors complained about her playing “with nonwhite girls” with one exploding at her mother, telling her, “You Jews think you own the world.”

Back in England after the war, Angela began winning regularly on the junior tennis circuit and took lessons at London’s renowned Cumberland Lawn Tennis Club in West Hampstead. Dating back over 120 years, the CLTC is steeped in history since the first balls were hit on its courts back in the 1800s.

However, much harder than the hard surfaces of the courts, was the below the surface antisemitism in post-Second World War England. Regardless of her talent, her coach at the Cumberland assured her:

You’re perfectly good, but you’re Jewish. We don’t take Jews here.”

The American Civil War might have ended slavery; WWII did not end antisemitism.

“Waiting For Godot”

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Angela and Althea. Angela Buxton (right) will be speaking about her late victorious Wimbledon doubles partner, Althea Gibson (left) at the upcoming 2019 US Open at Flushing Meadows, New York.

Like the two central characters in Samuel Beckett’s play Waiting for Godot who never arrives, so the two players (one posthumously) of the 1956 final are waiting for Wimbledon that too ‘never arrives’.

While Angela was one of the first individuals to be inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame during its opening ceremony in Netanya, Israel in 1981 and next month will be recognised at a special ceremony at the 2019 US Open, where she will deliver a speech about her doubles partner Althea Gibson, Wimbledon still ignores her.

When Angela last inquired about the status of her membership, she was told that “They said I had refused it and my membership had gone to the back of the queue. This is simply not true; I never refused it and there are so many players who didn’t do anything like me and got membership.”

Noting the increase in antisemitism in the UK and its prevalence in the Labour Party – the traditional party of much of Britain’s Jewish community – Angela expressed to The Times, “It’s an unfortunate example of how the British really treat Jews in this country. This sort of thing exacerbates the feeling towards Jews. It’s perfectly ridiculous, it’s laughable. It speaks volumes.”

A Wimbledon spokeswoman responded: “While the decision-making process for membership of the All England Club is a private

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Playing Out The Clock. At 84, Wimbledon women’s single finalist and women’s doubles winner, Angela Buxton remains at the “back of the queue”

matter, we strongly refute any suggestion that race, or religion plays a factor.”

Meanwhile, Wimbledon’s Jewish champion Angela Buxton is still waiting for recognition.

Well now that the matter is out in the open and hardly a “private matter”, the question remains:

At 84, how much longer is Angela Buxton expected to still stand “in the queue”?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Israel Apartheid Week

An open letter to the Student Representative Council of the University of Cape Town in response to hosting the annual hate fest in April 2019: The Israeli Apartheid Week.

By Stephen Schulman, a UCT alumnus living in Israel

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Hall Of Hate. Jameson Memorial Hall is UCT’s venue during its annual ‘Israel Hate Week.

Dear members of the UCT SRC,

Now that the new year of 2019 has arrived it came to my notice that you, as in the past, and as is your custom, in the merry month of April, hosted that annual hate fest: the Israeli Apartheid Week.

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As a past graduate of our proud university and even though many moons have passed, I still feel a kinship to this great institution and its students and therefore would like to draw your attention to certain cogent facts and to engage you in a frank open discussion. I am certain that your studies and exposure to the benefits of academia of my alma mater have endowed you with qualities of intellectual and moral integrity and have instilled in you the virtues of disinterested enquiry, dispassionate objectivity and courtesy that shall enable you to weigh my words and honour me with a reply.

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You label Israel an “apartheid state”.

To deserve that label, a country must fulfil certain criteria. Apartheid was official government policy, legislated, executed and also condoned and ideologically justified by the main Afrikaner churches. Black people were discriminated against, disenfranchised, relocated, dispossessed and relegated to the fringes of society while there were strict laws against miscegenation and racial intercourse.

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The high-profile marriage in 2018 between Arab-Israeli news anchor, reporter, and television host Lucy Aharish, a Muslim (left), and Israeli film and television actor Tzahi Halevi and a Jew. (Photo: Meir Edery)

Unfortunately, nowadays the term “apartheid” has been too often incorrectly applied to any form of discrimination, been devalued and has consequently lost its original context.

Now, does the State of Israel fulfil the criteria to be so labeled? Does it have an official policy of racial discrimination to groups within its borders?

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Firstly, all citizens irrespective of race or religion have full equality.There are Arabs serving in the diplomatic corps and an Arab judge in the supreme court. In the Knesset (Israeli parliament) the current minister of communications is a Druse. There are Arab parties in the Knesset and even though they see themselves as Palestinians and their views are often inimical to the state, as Israel is a democratic country, they have the right to express their opinions, which they freely do. Arab citizens are an integral part of the work force and partake fully in society. In my Medical Health Fund and in hospitals and clinics, there are Arab doctors and nurses with Arabs and Jews together in the hospital wards. I have been treated by Arab doctors and nurses and wait my turn in line after other Arab citizens to see a doctor. There is mingling in cinemas, restaurants and supermarkets. Just recently a well-known and popular TV presenter who happens to be a Moslem Arab married a Jew. Is this “apartheid“?

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Israel has freedom of religion and religious sites are protected by law. The Bahai faith so viciously persecuted in Iran has magnificent gardens and buildings in Haifa. A great number of Christian pilgrims visit our country. The LGBT community lives and works freely here. Do these same conditions exist in the Middle Eastern countries surrounding us, in Gaza and the West Bank?

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You profess a deep and lasting concern for the Palestinian community. Let us now examine a few facts. In 1948, the United Nations declared Israel as a legitimate state with a right to stand amongst the community of nations. The Israel War of Independence ensued as the fledging state’s Arab neighbors refused to abide by the UN resolution, acknowledge Israel’s existence, avowed to destroy it, “push the Jews into the sea” and promptly invaded the country. In the aftermath of the war, approximately 600,000 Palestinian Arabs became refugees. Moreover, approximately 850,000 Jews who had been living in the Arab countries many centuries before Islam dominated the area, were persecuted, subjected to pogroms, disenfranchised, dispossessed and expelled.

image010 (3).pngIn the name of justice for all, a most relevant and pertinent question would be to enquire about the fate of these 850,000 Jewish refugees. The answer is quite simple: the vast majority were accepted with open arms by the fledgling state while a smaller number having European passports chose to move there. Today, Jews from Arab countries and their descendants are an integral part of modern-day Israel.

Israel did not push them into squalid refugee camps and keep them there to fester as hostages as the Arab countries have done to their fellow Moslems. Israel did not deny them full citizenship and opportunities. You profess deep concern for the Palestinians’ rights. Lebanon restricts them to refugee camps, denies them basic rights such as citizenship, health care, employment and education and disqualifies them from owning property. Moreover, they are barred from studying or practicing in twenty professions. Lebanon continues to ignore calls by various human rights groups to the Lebanese authorities to end discrimination against Palestinians.

Is this not “apartheid” in its true sense?

In reality, the policy and actions of Lebanon are closer to the Nuremberg Laws of Nazi Germany. In the wake of the Gulf War, many Gulf states, Qatar included, used the opportunity to expel the Palestinians living there. Saudi Arabia has imprisoned many and in Syria, thousands have been tortured and murdered. Is there an Arab country that has accepted their co-religionists the Palestinian refugees, given them citizenship and full rights as Israel has done to the Jews expelled from the Arab countries?  In the name of full justice and moral consistency, why have you never raised your voices in protest? Why have you not devoted a week to this cause?

The SRC has always stated its awareness of and devotion to causes for human rights.

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Turkey under Erdogan has summarily dismissed over 100, 000 civil servants, purged the army, jailed many in the opposition and effectively silenced the free press either by laws or intimidation.

Iran is under dictatorship, executing, jailing and torturing many of its citizens, persecuting religious minorities such a the Bahai and actively developing and spreading terrorism throughout the globe.

Saudi Arabia denies gender equality, has religious intolerance ad has executed over 500 people in the last few years.

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China has forcibly relocated over 1000,000 Moslem Uighurs, incarcerated, executed and harvested the organs of members of the Falun Gong sect. and let us not forget, amongst others, its maltreatment of the Tibetans.

Yet, in the light of all these well-known gross abuses, the SRC has chosen to remain silent. Why is this so?

Is it because you don’t wish to offend and bite the hand that feeds you when Saudi Arabia and China invest large sums of money in SA?

You quite rightly state your pride in being an African university and your involvement in the affairs of the continent and so it should be. Nevertheless, you remain silent in the face of injustices. To name a few:

Zimbabwe is corrupt and oppressive towards its own people. There is slavery in the Sudan and many fellow Africans suffer under incompetent and corrupt rulers. I saw in your group picture where you happily and contentedly sit, that with the exception of one white person that you are all Africans, so in raising your voices you cannot be accused of racism. You have been empowered by your fellow students to speak out. Why is there silence on your part?

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Hall Of Hate. Jameson Memorial Hall is UCT’s venue during its annual ‘Israel Hate Week.

When I was at UCT, the SRC saw beyond campus politics, was involved, protested and demonstrated against government apartheid policies. South Africa – your country, the country of your forefathers and your future generations – is mired in deep corruption with its leaders filling their pockets at the expense of the ordinary citizen. Poverty, neglect and crime is rampant. In your site, I searched in vain for any pronouncements of your concern or activism.  It is incomprehensible that you should choose silence!

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Consequently, your official platform is full of platitudes that unfortunately are devoid of any content. I find it pitiful that you find time to single out Israel while willfully ignoring the rampant injustices around you. I find it pitiful and morally repugnant that you turn a blind eye to many egregious violations of human rights and let hatred, racism and anti-Semitism blind your reason. I find it saddening that you, the student council are devoid of any moral compass and are stained with moral cowardice.

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I level these charges against you. They are serious. If I have erred, I shall gladly stand to be corrected. I look forward to your reply. If not, then you will have affirmed all my accusations.

Stephen Schulman

Ramat Hasharon,

Israel.

 

 

 

Road Of Revelations

Short In Distance, Bialik Street Is Long In History

By David E. Kaplan

There was sound reason why the organizers  of Israel’s 2019 Eurovision Song Competition in Tel Aviv chose to hold the  Semi-final Allocation Draw at the city’s former City Hall in Bialik Street.

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Beit Ha’ir (Hebrew for City Hall) overlooking the charming Bialik Square is today a museum drawing thousands of tourists.

While Bialik Street does not project the grandeur of Paris’ ‘Avenue des Champs-Elysees’, or the allure of New York’s 5th Avenue, it personifies the cultural journey of Tel Aviv – a journey where visitors require not tough shoes but adventurous minds.

image003 (58).jpgBialik street can take five minutes to casually stroll or five hours for a true experience – it all depends on your pace, for each pause is poetry. A side road off the pulsating Allenby with its cafés, pubs and restaurants, one exits the traffic and tumult of one world, to enter another of tranquility and charm. With its fine examples of Bauhaus architecture, Bialik Street is a UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

Starting at the T-junction of Allenby and Bialik, we began its tour. The writer strolled down the little brick road, admiring the diverse architectural styles of the buildings, until arriving at the former home of one of Israel’s most celebrated artists, Reuven Rubin (1893-1974). Today it is the Rubin Museum and the writer met with its curator, Carmela Rubin, the daughter-in-law of the late artist.

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Bialik Street in the 1920s.

Street-smart

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Hayim Nahman Bialik (1873 –1934), was a Jewish poet who wrote primarily in Hebrew but also in Yiddish and was one of the pioneers of modern Hebrew poetry. Although he died before Israel became a state, Bialik ultimately came to be recognized as Israel’s national poet.

Established in 1909 on desolate sand dunes, Tel Aviv in the 1920s drew like a magnet, many of the leading writers, artists, musicians, actors and journalists. Carmela attributed this to the arrival in 1924 of one man – Chaim Nachman Bialik, who would emerge in his lifetime as Israel’s National Poet and the celebrated resident of the street that would take his name.

 “That he chose to settle in Tel Aviv rather than Jerusalem influenced others to follow him. People today are hardly aware of the monumental impact Bialik had on his generation.”

Why?

Firstly, he arrived with such stature, a towering intellectual whose poetry and prose, calling for a reawakening of the Jewish people, resonated with a new breed of emerging Jew in Eastern Europe,” explained Carmela.

In this quest, language was the key and “Bialik was in the forefront in the renewal of the Hebrew language. Jews in Eastern Europe at that time spoke Yiddish; Hebrew was the language of the prayer book, reserved for the Sabbath. The Zionist movement had its central platform, the revival of Hebrew as the conversational language of Jews and Bialik was the spearhead in this mission.”

The generation of Hebrew poets who followed in Bialik’s footsteps, notably Jacob Steinberg and Jacob Fichman, would be referred to as ‘the Bialik generation’.

“Bialik was so much more than a renowned poet – he was a leader, and by choosing to settle in Tel Aviv in the 1920s, he transformed a small parochial city in Palestine into the center of contemporary cultural activity.”

Acknowledged as a leader of his city’s renaissance – as the Medici were to Florence  –  it was little wonder that his good friend, Meir Dizengoff, the mayor of Tel Aviv, not only assisted him to acquire a mortgage to build his house but also to rename the street in his honor before even the first brick had been laid. To so honor a person while still alive is rare in Jewish tradition – only for exceptional human beings.”

Bialik was one such person.

It was through the likes of Bialik that a fledging city transformed from sand dunes to cultural oasis.

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Artist Reuvin Rubin on his balcony in Bialik Street.

Portrait of an Artist

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Reuven Rubin’s ‘Self Portrait with a Flower’ (1922)

It was into this milieu that the artist Reuven Rubin arrived in Palestine in 1923, this time to settle. At an exhibition in Tel Aviv in 1927, Bialik wrote in the catalogue: “Blessed is Rubin who has had the privilege of bonding with Eretz-Israel while his talent is in bloom. Eretz-Israel, presented as Rubin sees it – with its mountains and cities, its gardens and valleys, its old people and women, its Jews and Arabs, its donkeys and goats, its stones and plants, joined in unexpected combinations on one small square of canvas – looks like the legend of Eretz-Israel.”

But it’s Rubin’s art of Tel Aviv that provides “a visual documentation” of a strip of land transformed from sand dunes to city,” explains Carmela. “When I show groups around the museum, I talk less about the theories of art and more on that thin line where art meets and reflects life so that when visitors leave the museum, they will feel they have touched the soul of Tel Aviv. After all,” asserts Carmela, “art is long, human life short; Rubin is dead, but his art is alive and tells a story for future generations.”

The narrative of a city emerging out of sand dunes is poignantly portrayed in the two paintings Carmela shows this writer. In Self Portrait with a Flower, painted in 1922, the young artist with black curly hair stands proudly in front of the barren yellow sand dunes from which the city of Tel Aviv is still to arise. There are three small homes and the Mediterranean coast is seen in the background. Rubin is holding in his left hand a vase with a white lily symbolizing fertility and in his right, his paint brushes. “The painting is a commitment to the future; both hands visually express the promise of the artist to impact upon the barren landscape of Tel Aviv – through his personal life and through his art.”

He succeeds in both.

In Les Fiancées, painted seven years later in 1929, the artist appears – still with his paint brushes in his left hand – but now, seated on his right is no longer a vase of with a lily but his beautiful bride-to-be. They appear regal in dress and demeanor on a balcony overlooking an established city; conspicuously absent are the barren sand dunes. A small plane is seen flying over the Mediterranean, symbolizing modernity and civilization. Clearly, the personal life of the artist and the development of Tel Aviv have merged and matured – the fruition of the idealism that embodied the earlier 1922 painting.

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Reuven Rubin’s self-portrait and fiancé with Jaffa in the background. ‘Les Fiancées’ (1929)

These paintings reflect Rubin fulfilling the Zionist dream and when the artist’s work was exhibited in New York and bought by Jews in the 1920s, “It was bringing a visual image of Jewish enterprise in Palestine to a Diaspora who had little idea of what was happening here,” asserts Carmela. “Rubin’s work was performing a pivotal role. If the content of his paintings portrayed Jews physically planting seeds and cultivating the land, the ideological impact of his work was achieving precisely the same result in the mindset and perceptions of Jews abroad.”

What Bialik had achieved in literature, Ruben set out to enhance and enrich through art.

The Rubin Museum is on three floors, where apart from the works of the artist and his splendidly preserved studio on the top floor, the second floor presents a pictorial lifeline in photos of the artist. There are also rooms allocated to temporary exhibitions unrelated to Rubin. On the day of this writers visit, on exhibit were photographs of the different architectural styles prevalent in Israel.

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The Rubin Museum on Bialik Street. (photo credit: Shmuel Bar-Am)

Cultural Cauldron

I leave the Rubin Museum and walk to Kikar Bialik (Bialik Square) which is encircled by architectural diversity – the former Tel Aviv City Hall, the Felicja Blumental Music Centre and Library, the Bauhaus Museum, (sponsored by Ron Lauder, displaying Bauhaus-designed furniture, graphics, lamps, and glass and ceramic-ware by Mies van der Rohe, Marcel Breuer, Christian Bell, Willhelm Wagenfeld and others) and the Jewel in the Crown, the Bialik House Museum.

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Dining room at the Bialik House. (photo credit: Shmuel Bar-Am)

Ayelet Bitan Shlonsky is the curator of the Bialik House Museum and manager of the Bialik Center, which includes running eight major “happenings” a year, notably in mid-summer, the annual White Night celebrations that attracted thousands to the square, as it does each year when local Tel Aviv musicians entertain till the early hours of the morning. “The concerts in the square are free and we celebrate Tel Aviv’s birthday each year with a different theme or genre of music from all over the world. Not only are we establishing Bialik Street as the city’s center for culture and history but also as a place for music and fun.”

Standing in the middle of the square, Ayelet points out the buildings in Bialik Street and explains the variety of architectural styles, notably Neo-classic, eclectic and Bauhaus.  “In one short road,” she says, “we have it all – the phases and faces of Tel Aviv architecture. It’s all staring at us!”

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On Tel Aviv’s enriching Bialik Street, architecture ranges wildly from eclectic to Bauhaus.

Entering Bialik’s house is like opening a treasure trove. The eye feasts on a kaleidoscope of diverse designs and colors. The architect, Yosef Minor, a disciple of the Eretz-Israel school, integrated European and Arab architecture, and Bialik’s house is an outstanding example of a merger of contrasting styles. “This pleased Bialik,” explains Ayelet, “who preferred not to simply transplant western culture as the Bauhaus architects would do a decade later but rather integrate western concepts with the east.”

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The ambiance of the orient with its arches and columns beatify every corner of Bialik’s home.

Despite the influence of the Orient with its arches and columns that beautify every corner of the house, the architect does not allow one to ever doubt that the house was built for one who was revered as one of the main spokesmen of the yishuv (the pre-state Jewish community of Palestine). The hearth and pillars on the reception floor are covered in tiles decorated with Jewish themes, the products of the Bezalel workshop in Jerusalem. The hearth depicts the journey of the Ark of the Covenant and the story of the spies Moses sent to scout the land, while the pillars are illustrated with the twelve tribes and the months of the Hebrew calendar. And if this was not enough, a further element underlines the connection between Jewish history and Zionist belief: On one side of the pillar appears a replica of the Roman coin Judea Capta and on the other, a coin of captured Judea freed from chains with a caption reading: “Judea liberated”. This theme of Jewish courage and revival are at the core of Bialik’s philosophy.

In 1903 Ahad Ha’am (Asher Ginsberg) sent a firsthand report to Bialik on the Kishinev pogrom where Jews were massacred.  Based on Ahad Ha’am’s detailed account of the bloodbath, “A year later,” says Ayelet, “Bialik published his epic masterwork, ‘The City of Slaughter’, a searing condemnation of Jewish passivity.”

… the heirs

Of Hasmoneans lay, with trembling knees,

Concealed and cowering—the sons of the Maccabees!

The seed of saints, the scions of the lions!

Who, crammed by scores in all the sanctuaries of their shame,

So sanctified My name!

It was the flight of mice they fled,

The scurrying of roaches was their flight;

They died like dogs, and they were dead!

The Kishinev pogrom was instrumental in convincing tens of thousands of Russian Jews to leave for Palestine and became a rallying point for early Zionists.

It is said that Bialik’s onslaught on Jewish passivity in the face of anti-Semitic violence,” says Ayellet, “inspired the idea of founding Jewish self-defense groups in Russia and later the Haganah in Palestine. You can see why Bialik was so important on so many levels.”

In 1922, Ahad Ha’am, now himself an established philosopher and writer and resident of Tel Aviv, attended the foundation stone-laying ceremony for Bialik’s house.”

Bialik’s original ‘The City of Slaughter’ is housed in the museum.

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Exquisite tiles on exhibit at the former City Hall on Bialik Street (photo credit: Shmuel Bar-Am)

City Hall

Across the square from the Bialik Museum is Beit Hair – Hebrew for ‘Town Hall’. The writer’s guide is Ruthie Amoma an instructor at the Bialik Center. Beit Ha’ir is both a museum and a cultural center. Here visitors will find a permanent exhibition focusing on the life and work of Meir Dizengoff, Tel Aviv’s first mayor, alongside a photo exhibition that sets out to reflect and debate different aspects of the city’s history. Entitled ‘Revealing the Hidden City’, Ruthie explains that “the idea was to tell the story of Tel Aviv not from the writings and studies of historians but from the pictures and interviews of the residents of Tel Aviv. We set out to not only record what is known but to explore that which was unknown, hence the title of the exhibition.”

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Mayor With A Mission. Meir Dizengoff’s office in City Hall on Bialik Street. (photo credit: Shmuel Bar-Am)

Who better to tell the story than the people themselves?

“An appeal went out to Tel Avivians,” continues Ruthie, “to submit photographs and to be interviewed. We anticipated receiving from some 3000 residents, which would have been sufficient to open the museum. But we were not banking on the enthusiasm of the residents of Tel Aviv. We received a staggering 28,000 photographs leading to new insights on the history of Tel Aviv!”

It is this enthusiasm that so characterizes the personality of Tel Aviv today.

The magnitude of the transition from the sand dunes of 1909 to the city of the 1930s is brought home when Ruthie guides me to Mayor Dizengoff’s majestic office that overlooks Bialik Square. Hung upon the wall behind the solid desk of Tel Aviv’s first mayor is a giant size original 1930s plan of the city, depicting in detail the spread and sizes of land ownership. Some of these lots would have been owned by those very founding families that participated in the beach lottery on the sand dunes in 1909 and seen in the iconic photograph, also in his office.

Clearly, if Tel Aviv of the 1930s was a ‘City on the Move’, it is even more so today, testifying  to the best definition I have heard of Israel’s cultural capital:

A city that wakes up every morning deciding what’s it’s going to be.”

Continuously evolving and redefining itself, Tel Aviv is a smorgasbord of ideas and it’s all captured in one short street called Bialik.

It’s well worth a visit.

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Famous For Fun. Revelers enjoying a ‘White Night’ festivities outside old ‘City Hall’, Bialik Street.

 

 

* Title photo: Bialik Street viewed from the plaza with Bialik’s house on the left. (photo credit: Shmuel Bar-Am)

The Israel Brief- 08-11 July 2019

 

The Israel Brief – 08 July 2019 – Landmark ruling on terror. Investigation concluded in Tekah shooting. Saudi Arabia expells Palestinian expats.

 

 

 

The Israel Brief – 09 July 2019 – Gaza tunnels. Lobstergate. Remembering Operation Protective Edge.

 

 

 

 

The Israel Brief – 10 July 2019 – Liberman says unity gov possible without him. Israel’s education Minister has foot in mouth disease. Haredim threaten Ramat Gan mayor.

 

 

 

The Israel Brief – 11 July 2019 – PA double salary of Mastermind behind murder of 3 boys. DNA may exhonerate police officer in Tekah case. Yad Vashem changes prayers to include Jewish victims from North Africa.

 

 

 

 

The Arab Voice

A selection of opinions and analysis from Arab journalists writing from and about the Middle East.

 

THE BEGINNING OF THE END FOR ERDOGAN
Al-Arab, London, June 26

By Kheir Allah Kheir Allah

In Istanbul, Recep Tayyip Erdogan rose to power. And in Istanbul began his fall: a man who believed that he, alone, could change the nature of the Turkish political system and consolidate all constitutional powers in his own hands. Erdogan was able to combine the authority of the president and the prime minister into one position.

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Erdogan suffers major setback in local elections, loses control of Turkey’s capital.

He became an autocratic ruler whose power outweighed that of any other politician. But in the recent local elections held in the country, Erdogan lost control over Istanbul for the second time in three months.
Winning Istanbul’s mayorship was of special importance to Erdogan’s party. It was a symbolic victory it needed. But the election of the opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu sent an important message to the Turkish leader: The people of Istanbul reject not only his 16-year rule, but also his Muslim Brotherhood-like politics that have changed the face of Turkish society. Erdogan wanted to show that he could secure Turkey’s expansion in all directions and restore the glory days of the Ottoman Empire. He counted on the Muslim Brotherhood to help him achieve this goal. But in the process, he failed to see that the Brotherhood is nothing more than a weak organization that is incapable of overseeing a modern state and its institutions.

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Supporters of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) gather in front of the party’s headquarters to celebrate the municipal elections results in Ankara, Turkey, March 31, 2019. REUTERS/Stringe

The first time Ekrem Imamoglu won the Istanbul municipal elections, his victory over his rival, Binali Yildirim, stood at 13,500 votes. Between March 31, when elections were held for the first time, and June 23, when elections were held for the second time, this difference jumped to 800,000 votes. If this proves anything, it shows that the Turkish people know perfectly well that Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a failed politician. Erdogan has proved to be just another Brotherhood bully with no limits to his desire to consolidate wealth and power, including within his own party. Erdogan himself, when he was mayor of Istanbul in the 1990s, claimed that “he who loses Istanbul loses Turkey.” He is now on his way to losing Turkey, whose people resisted a clear attempt to impose a new dictatorship on the country similar to the military dictatorship of the 1980s.
Turkey did not emerge from that dictatorship only to fall under the dictatorship of the Muslim Brotherhood. That is the clear message that the people of Istanbul wanted to convey to the Turkish president. This is the beginning of the end for Erdogan, who turned out to be another Third-World dictator whose thirst for power can never be quenched. Erdogan fell into the trap of the Muslim Brotherhood and set the Turkish economy, its foreign affairs and its social progress decades back. He failed to learn from his mistakes. He became drunk with power and thought he could sweep his failures under the rug. But the elections proved him wrong.
– Kheir Allah Kheir Allah

 

KUWAIT’S BOYCOTT OF THE MANAMA WORKSHOP WAS A MISTAKE
Al-Anba, Kuwait, June 28

By Saleh Al-Shayi

Why did Kuwait refrain from attending the Manama workshop? Why was it the only Gulf state to boycott the conference? I’m reminded of the Camp David years and the disagreements that soon ensued throughout the Arab world. Arab leaders were divided on how to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. These disagreements resulted in a split within the Arab world between a moderate camp that supported the process, and a hard-line camp that objected to the process.

The latter called itself the “front of steadfastness and confrontation.” Kuwait and a wide host of other Gulf states placed themselves within the moderate camp, while the “the front” consisted of revolutionary states such as Iraq, Libya, Algeria, Syria and South Yemen. The latter believed that Palestine would only be liberated through war. Forty years have gone by and this so-called “front” has slowly disappeared while its leaders evaporated from the world. Needless to say, they did not liberate a single grain of sand of Palestinian soil; they did not fire a single bullet or pick up a single weapon for the liberation of Palestine.

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The opening session of the “Peace to Prosperity” workshop in Manama on June 25, 2019 , Bahrain, Kushner urges absent Palestinians to seize the ‘opportunity of century’. (Bahrain News Agency via AP)

 By abstaining from attending the Manama workshop, the Kuwaiti government today is seeking to compensate for what it lost 40 years ago when it failed to join the resistance camp. By defying the Gulf states’ consensus on the workshop, Kuwait is making a political statement. This is a ridiculous attempt to rewrite history and put Kuwait on the correct side of the political map. It would have been much wiser for Kuwait to send a delegate to Manama and shape the conference’s results through talks and negotiations. Boycotting the conference from the very outset only served to harm the reputation of Kuwait and undermine its relations with the United States. I feel very sorry for how Kuwait conducted itself in this instance. It does not line up with its usual policies of moderation and support of collaborative regional efforts.

– Saleh Al-Shayji

 

 

Saudi Intellectual: The Palestinians Forfeited An Important Opportunity By Boycotting Bahrain Economic Workshop

Saudi intellectual, writer, and journalist Turki Al-Hamad has in a series of tweets, criticized the Palestinians following their boycott of the recent ‘Prosperity to Peace’ economic workshop in Bahrain that focused on the economic dimensions of the U.S.-led Middle East peace plan known as the “Deal of the Century.”

By refusing to attend the workshop, Al-Hamad expressed that, the Palestinians had forfeited a significant opportunity to advance their cause. The slogans of the past 70 years, he added, have yielded no results, so there is need for a new approach, such as the one represented by the economic plan outlined at the conference.

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Turki Al-Hamad (source: Watanserb.com, March 10, 2019)

The following are some of Turki Al-Hamad’s recent tweets:

The Palestinians Have Worked Themselves Into An Impasse And Are Forfeiting A Significant Opportunity

On June 26, 2019, Al-Hamad tweeted: “I think the Palestinians are forfeiting a significant opportunity by rejecting the initiative [presented at] the Manama [Bahrain] conference. This will become yet another in a long series of opportunities that have been missed over more than 70 years. Naturally, there will be talk about conspiracies and about selling out the Palestinian cause, [but] that is [precisely] what has caused us to get caught up in an endless ideological loop. It’s time to cut out [of this loop]…”

Al-Hamad’s June 26 tweet

The Palestinians Must Abandon Their Old Slogans; The Bahrain Workshop Holds Great Potential For Them

“…… it is now necessary to address the Palestinian issue in a different way and from a different perspective, far removed from the slogans of the [last] 70 years… [during which] they did not achieve even a partial result. Today there is a plan which promises an economic revival in the West Bank and the [Gaza] Strip. Some reject it, and that’s their business, but I believe it is suitable, from a practical point of view. For what is the alternative? Continuing [to spout] the same slogans for another 70 years?

“A strong economy is the basis for demanding [that] further goals [be met] for in today’s world, economy comes before politics. Ultimately, a complete rejection of this plan will mean [further] Israeli expansion in the [West] Bank and a dwindling of the Palestinian political demands, alongside the continued [spewing] of slogans, in which case the Palestinians will achieve less than nothing.

“China achieved by economic means what it failed to achieve by political and military means… during the [golden age of] ideologies, and so did Japan and Germany. South Korea made progress by means of its economy, after being at the bottom of [the roster] of nations. The G-20 summits are a message to the world that economy is now the most important parameter of the power of nations.

“The tragedy of the Arabs… is that they grant sanctity to everything – in tradition and politics – and do not distinguish between constants and variables. For example, in light of the current variables, to contend with the Palestinian issue, we need a different paradigm, if we are [in fact] interested in finding a solution. But if [the Palestinian issue] is a goose that lays golden eggs for some, [we can] forget about a solution and about those who demand it.”

The Beloved Country, Still Cries

By  Richelle Shem-Tov

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Still Crying. The iconic book that is talked about today no less than when it was published in 1948

In 1948 Alan Paton wrote a book on South Africa, Cry the Beloved Country. There are perhaps those of the younger generation who may not know of it or of the tragedy of the country, beloved then, as now to, all of its people. For hundreds of years it has been a beloved country; perhaps ever since man has walked its paths. It was and is a country of great beauty and presents vistas as fine as any in the world; a land rich with life; peoples as colourful as the  rainbow, but side-by-side with joy and song, it has for centuries been crying. Bloody and fierce battles between tribes, ethnicities and races punctuated its turbulent history. Ultimately the blacks were brought to their knees by both the British and the Boers, losing their land, their livelihood, their culture and worst of all their dignity.  The British and the Boers too fought bitter wars for control of this country, leaving behind ugly scars of suffering, hatred and destruction.

 

Despite the conflict,  South Africa developed, becoming rich and powerful;  a small minority living in comfort and wealth as only few in the world could boast.  Millions remained exploited, poverty- stricken and humiliated – reduced to a lesser race, even in their own eyes. Racism, hatred, fear, conflict and crime reigned. In 1948, apartheid, a cruel and comprehensive system of racial segregation, became the law of the land. The country wept. This is the country I grew up in.  I grew up enjoying the privileges of the white race but knew and heard the cry of the beloved country.

The Beloved Country, Still Cries7.jpgI left in 1962. I left an apartheid state. In 1994, after a long-protracted struggle of the black and coloured people, apartheid was abandoned, and the new South African democratic state came into being with a huge black majority voting in their own government.

Having family in Cape Town, I visit often. With each visit I rejoice anew. I rejoice at being with my loved ones; I rejoice at the unbeatable beauty of the surroundings; I rejoice at the familiar sounds and sights of my childhood; I rejoice at the incredible, no, miraculous change; I rejoice as I see black and white children splashing in the same sea resort; I see a white policeman helping an elderly black lady off the bus; I hear that at a graduation ceremony of engineers at Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg, more than fifty percent were black women;  I listen to performers of all races at the Johannesburg symphony orchestra – when the black conductor stepped onto the podium I cried with joy. The people of the passport control, security people, travelers and businesspeople, not just the cleaners and porters, are black. I rejoice when the maid, a black maid, may use the same toilet as the mistress.

 

 

The Beloved Country, Still Cries4.jpg

I visit a game reserve in Natal. The owners tell me that this land was owned by a few farmers, white farmers of course. They had turned their property into this magnificent resort and game reserve. The black people who lived on the farms all became share holders, they built their villages, homes, schools outside the areas fenced in for the animals. Those who wished were employed on the reserve. Surely a win-win situation.

Though the suburbs of Johannesburg are empty after dark, on the evening we visited Soweto it was full of people dancing and singing, black and white people.  Could this have been then??

The Beloved Country, Still Cries5.jpg

For all this and more I rejoice, but my memories of the apartheid period disturb and distress me to this day. How deep and destructive are the effects of a racist and conflict-ridden environment – to all who live within it.

Yet I hear other rumblings. I will tell here of some encounters I had on my visits: On a flight from Gauteng to Cape Town, I sit next to a well- dressed and fine- looking young black man. He tells me he is a statistician on his way to a meeting with the SA air force where he will be acting as an advisor. He has visited many countries in this capacity. He tells me he received his degree at Tuckies, the University of Pretoria which in my student days was a hot bed of extreme white Afrikaner nationalism. Only another South African of those times could understand my complete amazement.

This fellow passenger speaks with pained anger of today’s corruption, of the inadequate education system, of mismanagement. I ask him if there is nothing good that he can tell me. He agrees that all is not bad, that it is true that millions, literally millions of houses have been built; electricity has been extended to millions; water and sewerage reach many more; there is a rising black middle and upper class: HIV is being addressed. But this cannot be and is not enough.

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Here I ask him if he remembers the apartheid period: the shootings, the torture, the beatings, the humiliation; when a white man’s ambulance was not permitted to drive an injured black man to a hospital; where the stations, the buses, the benches, the parks were forbidden to the black man; a premature black infant was not permitted the use of a vacant incubator from the white man’s hospital; the long lines of black people outside the small window of the spacious almost empty post office; when a man could not walk in the streets without a “pass’ from his white master; when families were torn apart to be sent home to the Bantustans. I remind him of the corruption, economic mismanagement and the ‘Bantu education’ of those times.

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Facing The Future. There is much to smile about with today’s young South Africans never having experienced apartheid.

Could he and I have be sitting thus on the Johannesburg – Cape Town flight?

 He says that the young people will not always remember the apartheid days. He says and I know that millions of poverty- stricken and unemployed have gained little from the new South Africa. The poor can only watch this apparently bustling prosperous country from the outside. Their hopes, their expectations of a better life, have not been realized. They will not accept such a situation forever.

This enlightening conversation comes to an end on our descent into Cape Town.

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Reason To Still Cry. Twenty-five years after the end of Apartheid, this is a township on the outskirts of Cape Town in South Africa.

Thus, I hear and feel the good winds as I do the bad, but there is another, and for me, a more ominous wind. Sadly, one with which I am very familiar. I sense in some people a deep- rooted racism, an ailment which not all have been able to shake off. It is more subtle than it was, often expressed only in body language and suggestion or code. It goes beyond objective criticism. I am told it exists amongst the blacks too; I myself have come across it amongst whites. Every inadequacy, every criticism, every defect or imagined defect is directed to the “new” South Africa; There are some, less subtle who speak with bitterness and a longing for the pre 1994 era; who unashamedly regret the change. From time to time the derogatory and humiliating language of the past may be heard. I find this deeply hurtful. For too long has the land and its people been in the shadow of conflict. Too long for it to be able to let go completely of this burden of prejudice and intolerance.

To conclude I write these words to this country of my birth

I celebrate “The Beloved Country”;

I celebrate the mountains, the kopjes, the forest, the sea and the sky

I celebrate the Protea, the Acacia, the Baobab, the Aloe and the grassland

I celebrate the birds, the doe, the zebra and the giraffe

I celebrate the city, my cities, Cape Town, Johannesburg, Polokwane

I celebrate the people of the rainbow nation, their dance, their song, their multitude of tongues.

I celebrate their achievements, their freedom, their victory of tolerance and reconciliation. I envy this.

I hurt at their failings and faulting

I hurt deeply at the horrific poverty, frustration and despair in city and in village.

I hurt most at that lingering dark presence of racism.

The Beloved Country has much cause both to celebrate and to weep

 And yes, the Beloved Country does still cry.

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Richelle Shem-Tov.jpgRichelle Shem-Tov an essayist and an author was born and grew up in Polokwane (formerly Pietersburg), South Africa.  A retired physiotherapist, a mother of four and a grandmother of ten. She lives with her husband near Tel Aviv in Israel.

Am Yisrael High

Medical Marijuana – Israel’s growing “HIGH-tech” leader

By Rolene Marks

Israelis are renowned for being high on life. In fact, Israelis rank very high on the UN’s happiness index, coming in at number 11, far higher than our US and British friends.

Could it be that there is a secret to being happy and chill in the most volatile region in the world?

“Doobie”, “blunt”, “chronic”, “wacky baccy”, “Mary Jane”, “dope”, “ganja”, “weed” or whatever you call it, cannabis is inspiring one of the fastest growing industries in the world and Israel is leading the way.

In 2016, the Israeli government announced that it will expand the number of doctors trained and authorized to prescribe medical marijuana. In January of 2017, the government announced plans to decriminalize personal marijuana use and in February a government committee approved cannabis export.

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Israel Riding High. Israel’s blooming medical marijuana industry. (photo by Kobi Gideon/FLASH90)

In April 2019, Israel’s largest medical cannabis company, Breath of Life filed their preliminary prospectus for listing on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX).

The company, also known as BOL Pharma, would be the first Israeli medical cannabis firm to list its shares on the TSX. Kalytera Therapeutics Inc., also an Israeli medical cannabis firm, has shares listed on the TSX Venture Exchange, Canada’s public venture capital exchange for emerging companies.

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High Profile. An agricultural engineer inspects quality marijuana plants at the BOL (Breath Of Life) Pharma greenhouse at medical cannabis plantation, near Kfar Pines in northern Israel. (Jack Guez/AFP)

Cannabis can do’s!

Israel is a world leader in cannabis technology for a variety of reasons. When it comes to medical marijuana research, Israel is one of the leading cannabinoid centres, attracting interest from around the world and experts are descending on the tiny state to learn more.

Am Yisrael high?

Israel is a start-up and hi-tech powerhouse so why should adapting this to suit the needs of cannabis tech be any different?

What is the secret that Israelis have cottoned on to that is making medical marijuana a fast-emerging market that many want to invest in?

Israeli scientists are among the world leaders in modifying marijuana’s molecular structure to tailor cannabinoids to specific receptors for treating symptoms of disease.

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Top Grade. Inside the greenhouse of Israeli medical marijuana company Seach, Israel, January 30, 2019. (photo Eyal Toueg)

Agricultural technology such as drip irrigation is being tested and used successfully in the growing of cannabis crops before being used on other similar plants.

The decriminalization of personal marijuana use has also allowed the Israeli government to regulate medical marijuana and make it more accessible and available by prescription at pharmacies.

“Cannabis should be considered, so far as possible, in the same manner as any other medicinal product, requiring supervision and regulation in order to protect public health and welfare, even when taking into account its special characteristics — being a plant rather than a product manufactured in a laboratory or factory,” according to the Health Ministry’s Medical Cannabis Unit.

 It turns out that the munchies can prove to be medicinal!

There are many ways to take your medicine. Short of the traditional way, Israeli tech experts have devised new and creative ways to take your daily dose. A variety of delivery systems have been invented such as tablets, a patch, a nasal spray or a cigarette making it easier to regulate dosage.

Major pharmaceutical companies are also getting in on the medical marijuana action and have come up with solutions or devices to help patients.

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How Green Is My Valley. Yuval Landschaft, head of the medical cannabis unit of the Israeli Health Ministry, shows marijuana plants growing under tightly controlled climate and light conditions, at a farm in central Israel. (Tracy Wilkinson / Los Angeles Times)

* Teva Pharmaceutical Industries agreed to market medical cannabis for pain management in Israel with a revolutionary selective-dose pharmaceutical-grade medicinal plants inhaler from Tel Aviv-based Syqe Medical.

*Israel-American company Cannabics Pharmaceuticals is working to put the medicinal compounds of cannabis into a sustained-release capsule in standardized doses.

* Australia-based PhytoTech Medical is developing an adhesive patch with medical cannabis, based on Hebrew University technologies.

Different strains treat different conditions, and did you know that you can even grow your own. For medicinal purposes of course…

The blooming cannabis industry is expected to grow exponentially in the years to come. In the United States, the industry already boasts a $5.7 billion market.

Israel’s growing marijuana high-tech industry proves that the grass is greener on the other side – even in the desert!

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Thai High. Senior Thai officials visit Israel in February 2019 to learn about medical cannabis cultivation (Photo: Israeli Economy Ministry)

The Israel Brief- 01-04 July 2019

The Israel Brief – 01 July 2019 – We are on the move – Iran violates clause in enriching uranium, PA arrest attendees to Bahrain confab and off duty policeman investigated for murder of young Ethiopian.

 

 

 

The Israel Brief – 02 July 2019 – Solomon Tekah z”l laid to rest. Iranian nuclear standoff intensifies. Is this the return of Ehud Barak?

 

 

 

The Israel Brief – 03 July 2019 – Riots in Israel. Netanyahu open to peace plan. Disturbed dedicates Hatikvah to IDF.

 

 

 

The Israel Brief – 03 July 2019 – Tekah family appeals for calm. More Trump peace plan soon and Netanyahu reassures South.